The Ministry of Justice has extended the consultation period on its revised legal aid reforms by two weeks, to 1 November, following ‘clarification and amendments’ to the paper.

The ministry also admitted that a ‘transcription error’ had been made in an annex to the paper, which incorrectly set out some of the advocacy fee rates for some junior counsel.

An email sent to practitioners by the ministry today says the decision followed a ‘very useful’ meeting earlier this week with Law Society officials.

It says the meeting was held to ‘discuss the clarification questions’ the Law Society has received from its members regarding some fixed fees under the modified procurement model put forward for further consultation in Transforming Legal Aid: Next Steps.  

The ministry says it agreed to update the document in order to help provide respondents with ‘as much clarity as possible’. It has also amended some of the figures in Annex H, the Revised Advocacy Scheme proposals, in the light of queries received from the Bar Council.

The amendments are:

  • Paragraphs 3.61 and 3.65 of chapter 3 of the document, updated to reflect clarifications already communicated regarding VAT and travel and subsistence disbursements. 

  • Annex B: amended to reflect accurately the contents of the table. 

  • Annex E: table E2 has been updated to include the revised travel and subsistence rates for family solicitors.

Annex G: table G2 has been updated to show both current rates and proposed reduced rates for work within the scope of the current 2010 Standard Crime Contract, following the first proposed 8.75% reduction in early 2014.
  • Annex G: a new table G4 has been added setting out for clarity the proposed Non-Standard Fee Thresholds described at paragraphs 3.62 and 3.63 of chapter 3 that would apply under the proposed modified model. This reflects a 17.5% reduction on the current Higher Standard Fee Limit.

Option 1 for a revised advocacy fee scheme set out in chapter 4 of the document proposes the harmonisation of fees for guilty and cracked trials to, in each specific case, a fee that sits between the existing cracked and guilty fees. 
  • Basic fees as set out in Table H1 (some of the Junior Alone basic fees) and Table H2 (some of the Led Junior and Junior Alone basic fees) have been amended.

An updated version of the further consultation document including Annexes G and H can be found at: Transforming Legal Aid: Next Steps.

The ministry said: ‘We are keen to hear from all stakeholders with an interest in the consultation and continue our constructive engagement with the professions to help inform our final decisions.’ 

An MoJ spokeswoman confirmed none of the policy proposals has changed. The implementation timetable also remains unchanged, she said.